Adoption or fostering by gays and lesbians is now possible in all 50 states; however, some states seem uncooperative, and several state legislatures are considering bills that would allow discrimination on religious grounds.
When U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan struck down a Mississippi law banning same-sex parents from adoption in February 2016, we reached an important milestone: As of this date, no state in the country had a law on the books that specifically prohibited same-sex couples from adopting or becoming foster parents.
But just because it is now legal for LGBTQ people to adopt doesn’t mean it’s always easy. In August of 2016, for instance, a gay couple in Bozeman, Montana alleged their application to become foster parents was deliberately slowed by state employees on account of the couple's sexuality.
While it’s unconscionable that LGBTQ families are sometimes treated differently on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s unfortunately not all that uncommon. Some states, moreover, are attempting to pass bills that would specifically allow adoption agencies to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on religious grounds.
And ultimately, it’s the children who suffer most. While some states are busy trying to prevent loving LGBTQ families from becoming foster parents, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, 100,000 of whom are waiting for permanent placement in a qualified home.
What’s Being Done About It?
Fortunately, some states have taken action. Nine states — California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington — have adopted state laws that provide some protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity in adoption proceedings. Four additional states — Arizona, Michigan, Montana and Virginia — have laws that help prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity, in adoption proceedings.
Federal legislation is also pending in Congress that would prohibit discrimination nationwide. The bill, known as the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, would outlaw any adoption agency that receives federal funding from discriminating against prospective foster parents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. (Such protections already exist to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race and religion.) The legislation, which is sponsored by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would also prevent discrimination against foster youth on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Want to take action? Look up your state and federal representatives here and demand they support protections for LGBTQ people in adoption proceedings.
Have you experienced discrimination as a potential gay adoptive or foster parent? We want to hear about it. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experience.
And stay tuned to Gays With Kids as we continue to monitor and report on developments in anti-discrimination protections for adoptive LGBTQ parents, on both the state and federal level.